Dillon Lewis is raring to go ahead of a return to action with Cardiff Blues next season following a special summer with Wales.
The young prop impressed in the red jersey, as he went toe-to-toe with the formidable packs of South Africa and Argentina, who have long-standing reputations for being amongst the strongest scrummaging sides in world rugby.
Lewis certainly enhanced his reputation on tour, featuring in all three games as Warren Gatland’s side secured a 100 per cent record in the Americas.
With one eye on next season’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, the front row forward is eager to carry momentum in a new season with his home region, as Cardiff Blues make a return to Champions Cup rugby.
“I don’t think the World Cup would’ve been in my mind before this summer, but after the tour it is something in the back of my mind. But getting the recognition and potentially get into the squad will only come around if I’m playing for Cardiff Blues and playing well for them,” said Lewis.
“It’s a World Cup year and anything can happen. It’s something that every player will be working towards.
“Before going on tour this summer, and understanding I would compete for a place against Samson Lee and Tomas Francis on the tighthead, I wasn’t sure how much game-time I would get but I was excited for the opportunity.
“When you see your name mentioned in the initial squad to go, it’s always a massive honour and a very proud moment for myself and my family.
“To put on that red jersey and sing the anthem, there’s no other feeling like it. I played at Under-20 level, but to take that next step up to senior internationals is special and an experience that might potentially not come around too often, so you have to make the most of it when it does.
“To come back with three caps, including two starts, is more than I could’ve asked for and I was absolutely delighted with it.
“Prior to the tour, there had been a couple of question marks around my scrummaging for various reasons but I’d like to think I’ve put a stop to some of those question marks.
“As far as Tests go, they don’t come much bigger than South Africa and Argentina for a young front row forward, so I was really pleased with how the scrums went.
“Coming off the back of last season, due to injuries and selection issues, there was a lot of frustration there. But I’d like to think I’ve put that behind me and I can move onto next season with the new coaches and hit the ground running in pre-season, and hopefully get a lot of games under my belt.
“As a player, you want to play the best standard of rugby and it’s a massive achievement for the region to be back in the Champions Cup. It’s a credit to the work that last season’s coaches and players put in over the course of the campaign, to put us in this position.
“I’m extremely excited to play Champions Cup rugby. You want to play against the best, you want to test yourself against the best looseheads in world rugby, and this is an opportunity to do that.”
Lewis was one of a number of young, home-grown talent to make key contributions to Cardiff Blues’ campaigns in both the PRO14 and Europe last season, as the likes of Seb Davies, Jarrod Evans and Tomos Williams also starred.
The Church Village-born prop, who dotted down for his first try in Cardiff Blues colours against Ulster, is excited by the dynamism within the squad and believes this played a vital role in last season’s success.
Lewis said: “If you go back three years, there were a lot of academy players and youngsters getting opportunities. Three years later, those boys are the core of the squad.
“It’s really exciting to have a lot of home-grown players who want to play for the region and it’s excited to be involved with it because it’s a really good group we’ve got here.
"Something that’s changed drastically over the last 18-months is how close everyone is within the squad. As local players, we’ve got closer and closer, but the overseas boys also add a lot into the team.
“The big difference is that everyone plays for each other, and it’s great to be a part of and it shows on the pitch.”
Lewis is now set for rest during the off-season before returning for pre-season in July. But with a coffee company to run, alongside fellow prop Brad Thyer, there will be little time for relax ahead of a busy summer, where they will also be appearing at Cardiff Blues’ Summerfest at the Arms Park on July 14.
“I’ve got some time off now, but I’ll have to give Brad [Thyer] a hand with Fat Dragon Coffee now. I’ve been away for three weeks, and he’s been running around doing all the deliveries,” said the Welsh international.
“We’re excited to have an opportunity to bring our product to the Cardiff Blues Summerfest at the Arms Park next month. We play our rugby at the Arms Park, and call it our home, so it’s special for us to work alongside the region. We’ve linked up with a local coffee van called Finco, which is cool, and we’ll be looking forward to see how that goes.
“We’re also launching a new coffee - Y Ddraig Dew - so the summer is going to be a pretty special and busy one for us.”
You can join Dillon Lewis at Cardiff Arms Park next season with a 2018-19 Season Membership. With prices starting at just £205 for adults and £35 for under-16s, the Season Membership packages offer unbeatable value as Cardiff Blues return to the European Champions Cup. Buy yours today by clicking hereor calling 029 20 302030